Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

High-rise heart for Orewa in city's new plan

Council aims to encourage centre-of-town living.

Kensington Park in north-east Orewa is up to six storeys. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Kensington Park in north-east Orewa is up to six storeys. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Seaside Orewa could get more high-rise apartments under the Auckland Council's moves to write a new planning rule book that encourages more living in town centres.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, who is heading the Unitary Plan preparation, said yesterday she would talk to Hibiscus and Bays local board leaders about their nominated plan for 30 years' growth, which caps centres' living heights at three or four storeys.

"There's a lot of pressure coming from many Orewa landowners saying it's crazy to stick to three or four storeys and when you look at similar areas that have seven to eight storeys, height is still an issue for negotiation and discussion with the board."

Mrs Hulse said questioning now whether Orewa remains a one-tower town - its 12-storey Nautilus apartment building appeared a decade ago - was timely with its link to the new Silverdale Centre.

The centre is in the midst of 48,000 residents, tipped to rise to 110,000 by 2031.

"I think we have to look at Orewa and say have we got it right and how do we provide for the future without ruining the area?

"We have heard two distinct things: we don't want it turned into another Gold Coast, blocking the beach for people to enjoy; but we heard there are some good opportunities - on some of the very large properties - to go up beyond the four storeys."

Mrs Hulse said the council was looking at increasing allowable heights in town centres throughout the city.

New low-rise apartment blocks are predicted to be built this year in Greenlane, Ellerslie, Mt Eden, New Lynn, possibly Grey Lynn and Takapuna.

Mrs Hulse said she understood some Orewa residents' aversion to high rise.

"The Nautilus just sort of arrived. It was almost like an alien space ship landed in the area.

"Everyone looks at that and thinks it doesn't fit."

But good urban design would be a feature of the draft Unitary Plan, which is being prepared for publication in March through talks with local boards and interested parties.

Hibiscus and Bays Local Board chairwoman Julia Parfitt said the board would be concerned, because it had carefully considered community views.

"Our community said we want to maintain the coastal village feel and I think it's important we get the right balance of growth."

But Destination Orewa director Mike Smith said he was glad the council was taking seriously its concerns that the board ignored economic reality.

If the Orewa commercial centre was to survive in the shadow of Silverdale, it had to make the most of its beach resort location, with boutique shops, restaurants and cafes spreading out towards its 3km beach of white sand.

"But there have to be more people here through higher density living. That won't happen, because with current land values, a development needs to be over 10 storeys to get a return on capital.

"It was never suggested there be high-rise or higher density building code on the beachfront."

Orewa Ratepayers & Residents Association president John Drury said the developers' argument for high-rise on economic grounds was rejected by the community and the Environment Court.

Orewa grew by 49 per cent to reach 7530 people between 1996 and 2006, and since then the Evelyn Page Retirement Village opened and the Kensington Park intensive development - of up to six storeys - continued to grow in the north- west.

The association saw the town's future as a seaside village rather than a town centre because of the significance of Silverdale, only 5km away.

- NZ Herald

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